The Hollywood Mirror
What the Johnny Depp / Amber Heard trial reveals about where we are now
Probably like many of you, I barely paid attention to the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial over the last few months. I decided to focus on it only a few days ago, catching some of the protagonists’ testimony as well as testimony from psychologists and others, following Twitter hashtags, reviewing articles going back years. The trial is truly a sordid, pathetic, train wreck. It features two wounded souls, lost in the abyss of Hollywood stardom with all of its privileges and perils; struggling with substance abuse, personality disorders, and poor impulse control; seeking love but unleashing misery.
For those who don’t know the background, Depp and Heard first connected on the set of Depp’s film, The Rum Diary, based on a Hunter S Thompson novel. They fell in love a few years later, dumping their respective partners, and got married in 2015, staying together for one turbulent year. Depp was 52; Heard, 28, at the time. The marriage ended in court with a $7.5 million settlement for Heard. She publicly declared she would donate the entire settlement to charity (it appears she didn’t follow through on this promise).
Depp, now 57, is suing Heard for defamation of character based on a 2018 editorial she wrote for The Washington Post (timed to the release of one of her movies), titled, ‘I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath.’ At the time, Heard was an ambassador for women’s rights at the American Civil Liberties Union. Although she doesn’t identify Depp directly in the piece, the timing and background made it clear he was the subject. She wrote:
“I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse. Imagine a powerful man as a ship, like the Titanic. That ship is a huge enterprise. When it strikes an iceberg, there are a lot of people on board desperate to patch up holes — not because they believe in or even care about the ship, but because their own fates depend on the enterprise.”
Depp claims he was never abusive to Heard and her editorial destroyed his career (costing him roles in Hollywood franchises like Fantastic Beasts and Pirates of the Caribbean). He seeks $50 million in damages. Heard has responded with a $100 million countersuit. Depp recently lost a libel case against an English tabloid, The Sun, which called him a “wife beater.”
Across social media, public opinion is running strongly in Depp’s favor, with hashtags like #Amberisaliar and #Amberturd (if you don’t know the back story, better not to ask) trending on Twitter. Despite the mass support, I would say his odds of winning this current case are somewhere between negligible and non-existent. It seems, instead, we are witnessing the spectacle of Depp’s ongoing self-immolation.
Unfortunately, artists — actors, musicians, writers — are not always the most psychologically stable personalities. Carl Jung wrote accurately, “The wound is the gift.” Sometimes — perhaps often — artistically gifted people are wounded, vulnerable, histrionic, sensitive, prone to excessive mood swings, and self-destructive. Apparently, both Depp and Heard were abused by their parents as children; their relationship seems to have ignited old traumas.
It is hard to sympathize excessively with Depp when one reviews what is now the public record of his personal finances, including the $30,000 he spent every month just on wine. In 2017, the monthly salaries for his forty full-time employees totaled $400,000. His private jet cost him another $300,000 each month. He bought a village in France for tens of millions, and a chain of islands in the Bahamas for $3.6 million. He spent over $7 million to buy five LA penthouses. He squandered $3 million to shoot his friend Hunter S Thompson’s ashes out of a rocket.
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